Written By Brian Hayles
Directed by Julia Smith
Can The Doctor stall Captain Pike from unleashing his men on the village until the revenue agent arrives with the malitia?
The answer, of course, is yes. I think of all the parts, this was my favorite. Everything came together, from a change in heart to The Squire, to Pike and Cherub’s greed pitting them against one another. Interestingly, Avery’s gold was said to be cursed, the terms being that any who seek the gold will be betrayed by one another. Such is how things go. Avery was playing the odds, apparently.
I suppose it would be appropriate to launch into a dissection of The Smugglers as compared to The Curse of the Black Spot and try to point out inconsistencies. But what fun would that be? It seems a bit silly to me, at the moment, to take what was obviously an in-joke on the latter’s part and try to build some large continuity explanation. However, it was also silly for me to put honey in my coffee, but I did it anyway. Let’s just draw the line at silliness there.
Thinking back over the episode, what I find most interesting was that The Doctor sent Ben and Polly back to the TARDIS, and explained to them (after they protested) that with them out of the way, he would be able to fully deal with Pike without worry of hostages. This stands out as interesting to me because modern-day companions wouldn’t dare bow to The Doctor’s logic in this instance. They would pretend to leave, but come back. Then, they would either save The Doctor from some unseen factor, or they would get taken hostage and The Doctor’s plan would be complicated. Granted, both of these are drama, but the former weakens The Doctor as an other-worldly character. He ceases to be a being from a higher plane of awareness and consciousness. Mind you, he didn’t really start out that way either. He was rather human in the Lambert years. Otherworldly, yes, with the hint of greater awareness, but still flawed. I’m not sure how I like my Doctor, as a god-like character who is flawed where his people are concerned, but still more enlightened than his human companions, or as a flawed character that is just a bit more advanced than the rest of us. I think he has been portrayed as both in the run of the show. Granted, what we get in The Smugglers isn’t nearly as big as either of these concepts are, it’s just something that I was compelled to think about.
It’s also interesting to me that character actions seem quite uneven. The Doctor had a lot to do this episode, but Ben and Polly not so much. They have had good moments in other episodes of this story, but The Doctor would then take a back seat where the action was concerned. It makes me wonder if the three or more TARDIS crew works best in stories that are more than four parts. A six part story, while a bit long for many serials, would provide plenty of opportunities for characters to have their own subplots and challenges. Perhaps this is why the six part stories were viewed as a hindrance by Philip Hinchcliffe in the Tom Baker years. The Doctor typically only had one companion (Sarah Jane then Leela) during this time. I’ll file this theory away and keep my eye open as I progress. But it seems that with the current string of four parters, characters have been fading into the background a bit. For crying out loud, Dodo faded so far that she disappeared.
But in the final analysis of The Smugglers . . . it was good. Certainly not the best historical, but it had good moments. I think it gets better with each episode.
And I’m really apprehensive about the next story.